Toxic Ash Clouds Might Be Culprit in Biggest Mass Extinction

January 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Posted in Lifescape | Leave a comment
Tiny globs of once-molten coal may have poisoned the oceans 250 million years ago.
clipped from news.sciencemag.org
sn-coalash.jpg

Tiny particles embedded in ancient Canadian rocks have provided new clues about what might have triggered Earth’s deadliest mass extinction. The ultimate cause, researchers say, might be globe-smothering clouds of toxic ash similar to that spewed by modern-day coal-fired power plants.

The die-off, which occurred worldwide about 250 million years ago at the end of the Permian period, was even more extensive than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs
When
Geochemist Stephen Grasby
analyzed rocks from just before the Permian mass extinction, they noticed
tiny bubble-filled particles called cenospheres
These frothy little blobs form only when molten coal spews into the atmosphere
they must have been created when massive amounts of molten rock—more than 1 trillion metric tons—erupted through overlying coal deposits in Siberia
loaded with toxic metals such as chromium and arsenic
they would have converted surface waters into a toxic soup
“The evidence is pretty compelling

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